Food and Drink


Neil Perry’s serving up smiles

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Who doesn’t like a good old game of blind man’s bluff? If you could put on a blindfold, spin around and land in one of Australia’s best restaurants, you’d do it in a heartbeat right?

Now imagine if you did all that and knew you were helping sick kids by making their lives sparkle a little into the bargain? Here, let me find you a blindfold…

Serving Up Smiles is an annual event supporting the Starlight Children’s Foundation, who are committed to improving the hospital experience for children and young people.

The event is close to the heart of chef Neil Perry, who has once again teamed up with Starlight to rattle tins in his own special way. We caught up with Neil to ask him about his experience Serving Up Smiles.

MILK BAR: How did you first get involved with the Starlight Children’s Foundation?

NEIL PERRY: Through my long-standing relationship with [Starlight Chief Executive] Louise Baxter and her wonderful team, plus I’ve always been a crazy supporter of the City2Surf. When I was asked again to be a part of the Serving Up Smiles Campaign I had no hesitation in lending my time and support from the restaurants to this wonderful cause.

MB: What attracted you to the campaign?

NP: The simplicity of the campaign and the various ways people can get involved and donate from secret tables, donating a wish and even hosting a dinner party in your own home. The funds raised can really change the life of a seriously ill child and their families.

MB: Any tips for the budding ‘Star Chef’s’ out there?

NP: Work hard, treat your staff, customers and suppliers with respect and you will be rewarded with loyalty.

MB: If you could grant a wish to a mini would-be Neil Perry, what would it be?

NP: Earlier this year I was lucky enough to meet an incredible young man by the name of Ben Coy. Ben had a life-threatening medical condition – his life was a routine of hospitals and treatment. He also had a lifelong passion for cooking and I’m proud to say that I was his culinary inspiration.

When The Starlight Children’s Foundation approached me and asked if I could grant Ben’s wish: “To meet Neil Perry and have a tour of his kitchen, cook with him and dine in his restaurant in Rockpool Melbourne,” I simply couldn’t say no.

Here was this brave young man, with such a simple and achievable wish – looking for further inspiration for all the wonderful family dinners he enjoyed creating for his family. We had a great time together in the kitchen at Rockpool – we cooked lunch for his family and then Ben sat with them to enjoy it.

Sadly Ben passed away not long after our time together but leaves the family with a wonderful memory of their time together. That is the power of granting a Starlight Wish.

MB: If people want to get involved, how can they be a part of Serving Up Smiles?

There are numerous ways to get involved. Head online, make a donation or split it between you and some friends and you’ll have a high-end dinner for four.

Where will the dinner be? That’s the twist – you won’t find out until 20 September, but with venues such as Rockpool Bar and Grill, Cumulus and The Botanical my advice is to get in quick.


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